Animal Rights

Well-Known Yellowstone Wolves Killed in Controversial Hunt

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Several wolves have already been killed by hunters in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness in Montana. Some of the famous wolves in Yellowstone have been killed. And radio-collared wolves that were part of Yellowstone's important wolf studies have even been killed.

But this isn't the way Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) planned it, says Carolyn Sime, the agency's wolf program coordinator, in a Billings Gazette article published this week.

The article states that Sime and FWP are surprised by how many wolves are being killed in the backcountry wilderness areas. According to the article:

That's not what FWP had envisioned. The agency has viewed the hunt, in part, as a way to remove the predators from the front country where they're more likely to interact with or kill livestock. If only wolves in the backcountry are killed, FWP isn't meeting part of its objective. . . . [Sime] said wildlife managers want to encourage wolves to remain in the backcountry, away from potential conflicts with livestock. "So what we're learning is that maybe we need to rethink these backcountry hunts and see if we can fine-tune that."

Really? How could FWP have expected anything else when they opened the backcountry wilderness areas to wolf-hunting on September 15th -- and wolf-hunting in the front country doesn't open until October 25th? With anti-wolf rhetoric boiling over in the Northern Rockies, what did they think was going to happen during the 40 days that only the backcountry was open to hunting?

Sime also contradicts herself in explaining FWP's rationale for the "low" quota:

"We didn't think wolves would be that vulnerable to firearms harvest. The uncertainty is why we went with a low quota to begin with."

If they didn't think wolves would be vulnerable to "firearms harvest" (what a euphemism!), there would be no incentive to set a low quota. The first part of her statement would only make sense if she was defending a high quota, and the second part would only make sense if they thought wolves would easily be killed.

And those famous Yellowstone wolves you've seen in the Park or on PBS and the Discovery Channel? Yes, I'm talking about the Yellowstone wolves that bring people from all over the world to Yellowstone, where wolf-watching tourists annually spend about $35 million in the region.

Some of those wolves are being harvested by firearms just outside the northern border of the Park in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. Without a no-hunting buffer zone around Yellowstone to protect the Park's famous packs, this was inevitable. It will be interesting to see what effect the poorly planned hunt has on Yellowstone's wolf-watching tourists, not to mention the wolves themselves.

So, what do we have barely a month into the first wolf hunt in the Northern Rockies in decades?

11 wolves killed in Montana, all of which were backcountry wilderness wolves (the "good" wolves, according to FWP). 30 wolves killed in Idaho. Wolves from Yellowstone's famous packs killed. And radio-collared wolves from the Yellowstone Wolf Project killed.

Post-delisting wolf management is off to one helluva start.

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